Statue portraying the Buddha during his years as an ascetic, taken during Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s visit, Root Institute, Bodhgaya, India, January 2017. Photo by Ven. Roger Kunsang.

Will renunciation bring us happiness or just more suffering?

Lama Zopa Rinpoche discussed this question in his book How to Practice Dharma: Teachings on the Eight Worldly Dharmas.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche advised that “any action done free from the three poisonous minds of greed, hatred, and ignorance is the cause of happiness … We don’t have to wait until our future lives to experience this happiness. As soon as we stop the dissatisfied mind, immediately—immediately—there is the result, happiness.”

“At first we might be nervous about letting go of desire,” he explained, “because it’s normal for us to equate desire with happiness. In fact, it is exactly the opposite. As soon as we let go of desire, we achieve inner peace, satisfaction, and happiness. We become independent. Before we were dictated to, controlled by desire, but now we have achieved real independence, real freedom.”

A statue of Milarepa at Kachoe Dechen Ling, Aptos, California, US, 2015. Photo by Chris Majors.

Citing the example of Milarepa, Rinpoche added, “Living without food, clothing, and reputation didn’t cause him any problems because of his Dharma practice. He achieved all the higher realizations and then enlightenment in that one lifetime all due to the power of his pure Dharma, renouncing suffering, renouncing this life. His mind was happier than that of the king.”

Rinpoche concluded by saying, “It is completely wrong to think that Dharma only brings happiness in future lifetimes but not in this one. Dharma brings peace and happiness to the mind the very moment we practice and live in the Dharma. We feel its effects immediately.”

Flowers at Buddha Amitabha Pure Land, 2016. Photo by Ven. Roger Kunsang.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche is the spiritual director of the Foundation for the Preservation of Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), a Tibetan Buddhist organization dedicated to the transmission of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition and values worldwide through teaching, meditation, and community service.